The science behind disgust [Salon.com] – I am fascinated by what our individual disgusts say about us. Disgust is a great reaction to evince during an interview, and reflect on; to unpack it with that person! Culture, physiology, personal history, emotion, instinct…disgust has got it all.
Humans are evolved creatures, but we’re also spectacularly different from most other creatures in the natural world. Humans went down unique evolutionary pathways when we were evolving, and part of what happened was that we became more reliant on culture. When some new issue comes up, Mother Nature doesn’t start from scratch; she tinkers with what already exists. When people began to get more social and more reliant on cultural information, some problems came up. So Mother Nature did her tinkering thing and made disgust one of the mechanisms to help regulate social interactions. You would think that our peers have a lot of influence on what we find disgusting and what we don’t, but past a certain point, they may be fixed. Let’s say you grow up in the Midwest like I did, and you go to state fairs where you eat elephant ears and fried Twinkies. Then as an adult, you move to San Francisco where you hang out with people who find state fair food revolting. Can their social influence make you disgusted by the foods you used to love as a kid? I tend to think you can make an effort to present as though you’re disgusted by something or aren’t, but I don’t know that you can ever actually fully change your sensibilities once they get calibrated.